Monday, March 14, 2011

Short Update About the 'Echoes of the Holocaust' Presentation

The only way you can apparently notify CNN about possible copyright violations is with a fax machine, so oh well. The publishing group that publishes the book, Pearson, did let me talk to someone who I told about the possible copyright violations and said they'd look into it.

So, however that spans out.

Also, I'm waiting for the Human Rights Committee to get back to me about the 'Sending My Concerns' issue, and Minister Toews himself still hasn't gotten back to me. My patience is getting very fried on this, and it's hard not to make the assumption that there is no legal justification. Again, we'll see how that spans out.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Character Focus: Rachel

I had fun doing the Amber Sweet character study, so I figured that I might as well do some more with some other character I quite like. Probably quite a few will be from my lists of favourite strong female characters, but a male character or two might get thrown in, or some justifications for weaker/shallower characters that I can't put in those lists without fanon, personal or fandom-wide. This time it's Rachel, from Animorphs. Since she is who she is, TW for violence and gore. Also, spoiler warnings, as I'm going to go over aspects of her character from beginning to end.This might be quite a bit longer then the Amber Sweet character focus, as she's not one of my favourite-ever characters, and Rachel certainly is.

Rachel (Berenson?)

David: You got something to say to me? You looking for a fight?
Rachel: Maybe.
David: You wouldn't morph. Not here. Not in front of all these people.
Rachel: I don't need a morph to handle you.
David: Maybe you forget this sometimes, but you are just a girl, Rachel.
Rachel: And you're just a worm. Wanna see who wins that fight?
David: Aw, you're upset over Bird-Boy. Did you like him or something? That's sweet. But you know, birds have short lifespans.
Rachel: So do worms.
David: What are you trying to do? Scare me?
Rachel: Nah. Wouldn't want to scare you. I just wanted to tell you something. You try to sell us out to Visser Three, we'll know. We have sources inside the Yeerk organisation.
David: Yeah, right.
Rachel: How do you think we knew where the Summit Meeting was? How do you think we knew one of the heads of state was a Controller? You try to sell us out, we'll know.
David: Doesn't matter. Nothing you'd be able to do about it anyway.
Rachel: You're probably right. Even if we were warned, we wouldn't last long. But some of us would last a while, you little bastard. Long enough to make sure your parents... Well, just use your imagination.
(David swings at Rachel with his fist. Rachel catches his hand and jams a fork to the side of David's head)
Rachel: You want a war between you and us, that's fine, we'll play that out. But if you try to sell us out to the Yeerks, your little family will never get put back together again.
Never! The Solution 

Tall, blonde, gorgeous, Rachel was a hobby gymnast who loved to shop and was best friends with a girl named Cassie until they, Jake (Rachel's cousin), Marco (Jake's best friend) and Tobias (chronic victim of...of life, really) took a shortcut and met an injured alien that gave them the power to morph into animals and told them that their world was being infested by slug-like aliens that controlled people's minds. The Animorphs, written by K.A. Applegate was a very popular book in the nineties, and was loved for being creative, and edgy-the effect of their long struggle against the Yeerks have very obvious and sobering effects on the teenagers, and violence is never shied away from. 

Rachel is enthusiastic from the get-go, not morally confused like Cassie, or skeptical like Marco, and once convinced of the reality of the situation starts to earn the nickname that Marco gives her, 'Xena, Warrior Princess.' Her catchphrase when planning attacks on the Yeerks is 'let's do it!' and she's drawn into the struggle from the start, determined to deal with their new reality. 

A hidden side of Rachel emerges quickly, her tendency towards violence and how she exults in that violence. It never wavers through the series-she fights with all her energy and soul, and though it's for a noble cause, as the series goes on, both herself and the other Animorphs wonder what she'll do after the struggle ends, how she'll live without the adrenaline rush and the conflict that becomes so central to her existence.

Rachel: Eight of them. Five of us. No way we could win. A sensible person would have seen the odds. But I charged straight at them. The Alien

Crayak even takes an interest in her, trying to recruit her after Jake rejects him. He gives her enormous power, the ability to crush those she wants to, and she almost kills Visser Three before realizing that her friends would consider her a monster for what she was about to do. That is the entire reason why she rejects Crayak's offer, turning her back on the possibility of immense power, and constant conflict. That relationship with her team, and her loyalty to them, is clearly one of very few things that keeps her on the side o the Ellimist.

Her relationship with her family suffers, especially towards the end of the series, when they know about the invasion and what Rachel does. (It's not helped by her mother being unable to accept the reality of her new situation, and trying to escape their safe haven all the time to tell the police.) Her relationship with Cassie suffers after Cassie makes the decision to give Tom the Blue Cube. Her and Marco have always had an antagonistic friendship, snarking at each other near-constantly. Jake and her have been at odds for a while, Rachel resenting what she assumes he thinks about her, guessing his judgement of her from half-slips, implications, or just the logic of how she knows she is behaving. Ax thinks that she's dangerous, and her relationship with Tobias is always tinged with tragedy. She's increasingly alone, the team fragmenting and her blood-lust increasing.

Tobias: But how does the butterfly know when to beat its wings? 
Rachel: It doesn't. I guess it beats its wings the best it can, and hopes it will all work it. It's a butterfly. If just does what butterflies do. 
Marco: And what do we do, Xena, Warrior Princess? 
Rachel: (grinning) We kick Yeerk butt. The Stranger

Rachel has a very close, touching and odd relationship with Tobias, the Animorph that is stuck in the body of a hawk. It develops behind the scenes, almost, significant glances, more concern then most would expect from Rachel, awkward conversations, until it's laid bare by their team mates commenting on the developing relationship that they can all notice. At the point where he is a nothlit who they all assume will never be able to be human again, their emotional connection has a very strong flavouring of starcrossed lovers, something that neither of them seem to be quite fond of. As Rachel mentions once, Romeo and Juliet has nothing on them.

When Tobias gains the ability to morph into his human self, though, Rachel is torn, because she wants Tobias to trap himself in his human body, and be someone that she can be with permanently, that doesn't have to turn back into a hawk every two hours. And Tobias doesn't want to give up the fight. She goes so far as to not warn him that he's running out of time when they're at a school dance. He realizes it on his own, but it's a near miss. Rachel does learn to respect his choice, possibly because she understands the need to keep fighting very well.

Possibly, because Tobias is captured and tortured by a beautiful blond Controller that is the dark-Rachel. That book has a lovely moment between the two, where she barrels in, ready to kill the girl that's hurt Tobias so badly, and he asks her not to kill her, to be 'Rachel, not her.' And though she's very obviously sorely tempted to ignore Tobias' request, she scoops him up and leaves, sparing Taylor's life.

Rachel doesn't usually show mercy very often, needing to be prompted to it. She, like all Animorphs, started off being squeamish about killing human-controllers, but there is a point towards the end where they can't be as careful as they'd like, and she's bothered, yes, but not to the same extent Cassie is. The interesting relationship between the best friends is intriguing, Cassie being the merciful one, the giving one, the moral one, and Rachel being hard, ruthless, violent, and capable. It causes friction between them, many times, but they do learn from one another. Rachel helps raise the skunk kits that Tobias orphaned. Cassie kills when she needs to do so. But in the end, Cassie gives away the Blue Cube, which gives a certain Yeerk the ability to morph into a polar bear, and to kill Rachel. Killed by kindness.
Rachel: (narrating) Unlike Cassie, unlike Tobias perhaps, I'm ruthless at times. But even I have enough sense to know the words "we have to win" are the first four steps on the road to hell. The Underground

I'm not going to touch on David much, but the last book he's mentioned in, The Return, was my favourite Rachel book. And the final scene, Rachel staring at the white rat that is David the traitor, David the nothlit who begs for death and tells her that if she doesn't kill him, he'll come back to haunt the Animorphs's a beautiful, haunting moment of Rachel struggling with herself. She either kills a rat with a human soul and mind, kills someone begging for death, kills someone who's hurt her, tried to kill Tobias, that she trapped in the body of a rat, that is the most pathetic thing she's seen...or spare his life, allow him to attack again, to live in this hell of a life that she condemned him to, to suffer as a rat.

We never see what she chooses. We never get told.

Rachel: I caught a glimpse of myself in a broken shard of mirror.
And saw what anyone looking down the alleyway from the sidewalk would have seen.
A young girl sitting knees-up in the sun, staring at a white rat.
It would be hard to believe the entire fate of the planet depended on that girl.
A girl who wanted to do the right thing.
But who had no idea at all what that was...
The Return

Rachel has nightmares every night, like all the Animorphs, dreams of all the terrible things that have happened, will happen, and could happen. The glory of Rachelis her humanity, is seeing her being plagued by guilt and anger and hatred, and still fight. She never really gives up, and she never stops trying. She's got violent impulses, a dark side to herself that scares her as much as it helps her, and sometimes wants things that she can't handle. But she's someone good to have in your corner, loyal to her team, a brilliant fighter, and a woman who sacrificed everything to help save the world, and in her death found release from that inner darkness that plagued her eye-blinding brightness.

Rachel: Answer this, Ellimist: Did I . . . did I make a difference? My life, and my . . . my death . . . was I worth it? Did my life really matter? 
Ellimist: Yes. You were brave. You were good. You mattered. 
Rachel: Yeah. Okay, then. Okay, then. The Beginning

 This quote always makes me feel like crying.

Image Locations

3. chareed/com/Animorphs

Friday, March 11, 2011

"Echoes of the Holocaust" Presentation

So yes, I thought I'd do a write-up of how it went. Trigger Warning for discussion about genocide.

It was offensive. There is not even any debate. Images of the Holocaust, Rwandan genocide, and diverse other gross human rights violations were show freely without restraint or trigger warning. I tried to keep a record but after eleven I stopped, it was just disturbing. As I'm sure will surprise you, images of these kinds of things were on screen while the presentation continued orally, a classic aspect of emotional manipulation. This happened multiple times, and was obviously a measured tactic. I even brought that up at the end of the presentation, and Stephanie Gray didn't deny it.

Well, let me try and start from the beginning, because I know I'm going to leave stuff out. I sat on one of the benches nearby from about two hours before it was scheduled to start, reading a book. The pro-life group and the presenter trickled in, with a curious habit of leaving the room every so often, looking for...something. Possibly protestors, possibly attendees. The security guard did arrive, though. Neither arrived until much closer to the start time of six o'clock. I spoke with my friend Alex who was out of town but also offended by this presentation, and then was greeted by someone I knew who was going to the presentation, and asked if I was. I responded that I was there for the protest rather then the presentation.

That sparked two debate/discussions with members of the pro-life group, both relatively respectful, though clearly coming from very different sides. I informed them of the rumour that the 'Canadian Institute for Bio-Ethical Reform' passed the pictures of pro-choice protesters it's known for taking onto groups that are willing to use violence. They seemed a bit troubled, but brushed it off as a rumour.

Soon enough, the protestors started to arrive, mostly from the Jewish Student Association, with signs and their message that the use of the Holocaust was innapropriate and anti-semetic. A few pro-choicers were there as well, besides me, and we held signs and made it clear our point of view.

When the presentation started, several of us went inside, to see just what they were going to do and say, and how offensive it would be.

They claimed human life starts at conception, and pointed out that an egg and a sperm cell each have only twenty three chromosomes. (When I pointed out later that her words could be interpreted as not considered people with chromosomal abnormalities, like the picture of a child with Downs Syndrome she reluctantly agreed, clarified, rephrased her point not to include that, and moved on.) When the sperm and egg combine, they create a "whole" human. (I decided not to ask if that meant any human cell with 46 chromosomes was a whole human.)

She showed a few images from a book titled "Dos/Don'ts of Parenting." I'll update the blog after Monday on whether or not I could figure out if they had the rights to those pictures. Similarily, they played a very long clip from the CNN documentary 'Scream Bloody Murder' and I'll try and find out the same thing.

She told an anecdote about how a woman looked at an image of what they claimed was an eleven-week abortion. not getting into it, but I doubt it was what they claim. And apparently she told the woman that this eleven-week fetus was in the first trimester where most abortions happen. And that's true...except this fetus they showed is at the very cusp of that. It's misrepresentation of the facts. And when this woman showed distress over not having known that 'they looked like that' they didn't bother to clarify that this was a late first-term abortion. But then again, that might require intellectual honesty.

Several extremely offensive quotes were said, again without trigger warnings, to make a point about 'depersonalisation.' Something that could be done with 'Nazis called Jewish people parasites, and so do pro-choicers,' was done with the actual quotes from Hitler and high-ranking Nazis. It was unneccesary. It was disrespectful.

And the points she made about consent, just dismissed the concept of consenting to a pregnancy, it made me want to scream. She took a well-constructed paragraph about how consenting to a pregnancy is vital and blew it off as 'it's implying the fetus is not an innocent little baby.'

She made the point about African-Americans having a large percentage of abortions, even showed that damn poster they used. And no, there wasn't a word said about what caused a situation where so many women in a first world country were having unwanted pregnancies. No, just 'black babies are dying, therefore abortion is racist.' Not said outright, of course, but implied. I'll say one thing, she's a decent speaker, and implies a lot. Kept pretending to almost-cry though, and it was really obvious.

And when she made the point about how tax dollars went to abortion, and that Canada doesn't allow US-style abortion protesting, I wanted to hug my country. And then she asked how we would feel if homosexuals were being rounded up and killed in medical facilities. I almost broke my pen.

And this point she made about the numbers, about how many abortions happen and how she's never heard of numbers like that...something tells me that back in the day, when death in childbirth/from pregnancy was common even in developed countries, those numbers rivaled it.

Then it was over, and three people stepped up to speak.

First was the guy I knew, the pro-lifer. Here's what he said, paraphrased. "I just want to make clear that we don't think women who have abortions are monsters. They're really a kind of victim. It's my fault, really, I'm the metaphorical Hitler, because I should have done more to make them not need to make that decision. These women are victims. And really, the women on the pro-choice side are angry because they've probably had abortions, or known someone who had an abortion, and what we say feels like a personal assault on them. But they're victims, and it's our fault for not helping more." And Stephanie Gray nodded and agreed and repeated aspects of this point.

Then an older Jewish gentleman stood up, and here was his point, paraphrased. "This is wrong. Using the Holocaust like this is wrong. Pro-choice, pro-life, I don't care, this is not how things should be done. You could have made this presentation about how abortion is like murder-I wouldn't care. But you used images of the Holocaust." And Stephanie Gray changed the subject, tried to get him to say what his personal beliefs were, looked dismissive of him when he spoke, and ended up cutting him off for the next person, who shook his hand and apologized for him having to deal with all this.

How do I know that? The next person was me! I made lots of points, I can't even remember everything I said to properly paraphrase it. Basically "We are not victims. Do not call us victims, do not feel sorry for not helping us-what we do is our choice, not yours, and it's our responsiblity. It's rude, offensive, and condesceding. And for the record, I've never had an abortion, and if anyone I personally known had one, they haven't seen fit to disclose it to me. I'm angry because this is offensive. You are appropriating images you have no right to use, no right to compare for your own political reasons. You are appropriating a horrible, very emotional event. Oh, and as a bisexual, the comparison to rounding up and killing homosexuals was offensive. Members of my community are actually being killed, it's not just a metaphor. And that sign that's on your website, the 'insanity of choice' that's ableist and also personally offensive." We argued a bit, I made points about not being able to define personhood by human dna, because what if there were sentient aliens, (she laughed, even though I made clear it was a thought experiment, which she had referenced earlier,) I pointed out that a fetus isn't innocent because it can't be guilty, I pointed out that every pregnancy carries a risk of death, I made points about self-defence, and I would have argued more, though she refused to actually answer questions, kept rephrasing them and making them about what she wanted to talk about.

Except she cut me off and said that she was sorry, but they had to finish up. I found out later that it was seven forty five (the meeting was scheduled until eight) and we could have kept the room until eleven. Interesting that she refused to go on fifteen minutes more.

It was This group has NO RIGHT to use images of the Holocaust for their own political gain. None at all. This presentation was offensive, appropriative, and was just absolutely wrong.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Abortion and the Holocaust

This is a bad comparison to make. Very, very bad.

First off, the Holocaust was a real event that really happened and really killed over six million Jewish people, Roma people, gay people, and various other groups that didn't fit Hitler's racist ideal. Real, born people, with names, souls, personalities, goals, hopes and dreams. Can we all please agree that their loss should be respected and not used for various political purposes and to demonize whatever we disagree with?

Second off, Godwin's law. But I'll keep arguing since I know someone who makes such a comparison won't respect that rule.

Third off, Nazi's were anti-choice. They used abortion to keep the numbers down of the groups they wanted to eradicate, and forced abortions onto those women. They did not allow abortion as an option for white women. Which means that the Nazi's stance on abortion was NOTHING LIKE the current political stance on abortion. Forcing a woman to get an abortion is a crime, and OB/Gyn's that perform abortions will refuse to perform one on a woman that says she doesn't want one. The choice is the most important aspect, because the choice was what the Nazis denied to the woman they forced to have abortions or denied access to abortions.

Fourth, showing pictures of Holocaust victims for any reason other then teaching about the Holocaust or remembering those who died and suffered during the Holocaust is WRONG. How dare anyone use these pictures for a shock picture, for a way to demonize their opponents?

Why am I talking about this? Because Brock Students for Life are hosting Stephanie Gray from the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform to make a presentation comparing legal abortion to the Holocaust. And this outrages me.